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how to begin to weave a basket

by lliyah

content warning: death / dying

Author's Note: For context - this poem is told from the imagined POV of my great-granduncle who in the early 1900s had to live in quarantine in a tuberculosis sanitarium where he died. There was not really a cure for TB during this time, so many people spent their time in isolation working on crafts and artistic pursuits. My family still keeps a small basket that my great-granduncle wove - a century later; memory is persistent. 

Please Note: Capitalization and punctuation choices are intentional.

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133 Reviews

Points: 1857
Reviews: 133

Fri Sep 09, 2022 4:08 am
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looseleaf wrote a review...

Hey lliyah! looseleaf here with a review.

Ok, so, you already know how much I love your LMS theme and your poems, and this one is no different. The way you use baskets to symbolize death and memories carrying on is incredible for a lack of a better word. Your formatting is also super cool and helps with the switching between thoughts and weaving steps. :))

Stanza/Section Number One:

I'm going to be honest, this one was my least favorite out of your poem. It was still great !! but it didn't flow as nicely as your other stanzas. I think most of the reason why it didn't sit right is that it's just one really long sentence without any periods, colons, or semi-colons. Also, the line:

that summer's coming and they say i am not far from the sun

didn't make sense to me? I think this is probably a me issue, but for some reason, the transition from "winnowing fork" to summer and sun did not correlate.

Stanza Number Two:

This one is awesome. I love the connection between the star pattern a basket starts with and the night sky that your great-granduncle looked at. The symbolism in the line "every familiar constellation has been chased away" is great (I understood it as, like everyone has been chased away from him because he's sick, and the stars do the same thing). The rhyming towards the end was also a nice surprise.

Stanza Numero Three:

The first part is short and sweet! Great connection between the instruction and thoughts. How do you think of these things? Like, the over and under coupled with birth and death? Amazing.

I must say I had to reread the second part ("there is a grace... to can do this") to fully understand it and I'm still kind of lost. I think it's that the step mentions that nothing is permanently undone, but in the thoughts I didn't get that message at all. The step tells me nothing is forever, but the thought tells me that the repetition is peaceful and instinctive.

Anyways, I like how you say "you can do this" after you describe your great-granduncle repeating an action like he's reassuring himself he can keep going. Feels sadly hopeful. And the link to the sun is cool, really connects the whole poem together.

Stanza Number Four:

Literally my favorite part. I love the comparison between the loose edges in baskets and memories, along with how it's alright to leave cracks in your basket/memories for people to fill in. Also, The connection to real life and the basket your family has in the last part ("the rough-edges unclipped as a reminder of the hands that wove together the grains") is *chef's kiss*. In my opinion, this has got to be the best line in the entire poem:

is it not somehow sweeter this way, to know even when we're gone some of the unhemmed threads are bound up in an ever-growing tapestry that goes back in time;

Alright, well, that's all from me. I really, really like this poem. I do think there are some parts where it's rather wordy and hard to read, but I think with the removal of a few adjectives/some reworking it'll be in tip-top shape. Good luck with LMS! I look forward to reading more of your poems, your theme is amazing. <3


lliyah says...

Hey looseleaf, thanks for the terrific review! :)

I definitely get what you're saying about there being a bit of a long-winding hard to follow sentence in the first stanza/point! On the link with the winnowing-fork and summer --> the reference there is a little subtle maybe; but where I'm from grain harvest (which a winnowing fork is used for) occurs during the Summer. So I'm trying to say in that part that the narrator is upset while gathering up these grains for weaving the basket, because it reminds him of harvest back at home, and he knows harvest is happening soon. And "I am not far from the sun" is both an allusion to the summer coming soon and is a euphemism people sometimes use for death (ie. the doctors telling him "you're getting closer to the sun" mean "he's dying soon"). Another more subtle allusion is that one of the TB "treatments" in sanitariums was lots of "open air" outside - so they'd wheel the beds outside a lot -> so I thought it'd be good to incorporate a lot of sky imagery with the sun / stars!

I can see how point 3 might get confusing too! "nothing is permanently undone" has a double negative in there so it reads a bit odd -> but means "you can't permanently mess anything up / including weaving this basket, and also including life!" because when you weave if you make a mistake you just go backwards -> and although at the end of life people might get caught up in all their mistakes, maybe in the end it's a bit like basket weaving too - our mistakes aren't truly as permanent as they seemed in life from the orientation of heaven's-view.

I love part four too so I'm glad you resonated with that! :) Thanks again for all your thoughts; definitely will take another look at some of the wordiness in places that might get a little dicey! It's a bit of a complicated poem @_@ but you did a fabulous job interpreting it!

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21 Reviews

Points: 149
Reviews: 21

Fri Sep 09, 2022 2:02 am
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ImaginaryPoet wrote a review...

I absolutely love this! It feels very much like some old cookbooks I have from my grandma - clear directions typed with her little comments and suggestions written in between lines. I really like how it feels like he's telling you the instructions, and then you're writing his thoughts at the same time. Since you said capitalization and punctuation choices are intentional, I won't comment on those.
The only suggestion I have would be to leave the title as just "How to Begin to Weave a Basket" and take off the parentheses. I think it's more interesting to read the poem and just let the imagination take you to wherever you think this might be happening, and then at the end have a little context. I felt like I was kind of fighting with myself while reading since I kept trying to put my mind back in a tuberculosis sanitarium, even though I have absolutely no idea what that would have been like. I just think taking that part off the title might make it a little more relatable, but to be honest, I don't think this poem needs much help in that department anyway since I think pretty much anyone can read this and be able to say "that reminds me of ______!"

lliyah says...

Hey ImaginaryPoet,

Thanks so much for the review I really appreciate it! :)

I'd be hesitant to take out the reference in the title because I'm not sure it's clear without it that the weaving of the basket is all a metaphor for dying until point 3; and the context is what makes the poem more impactful I think. The topic does make the poem a little inaccessible for sure, but I'm also hoping it might stir readers to look it up or to bring a little awareness to what it might have been like during a TB outbreak in that period / as well as to tuberculosis in general which still is a significant global infectious disease. Hopefully it won't always be though!

Thanks again for your interpretation and feedback! Have a great day! :)

Man is by nature a political animal.
— Aristotle